While the entire HVACR industry is struggling to attain, train, and retain qualified workers, the 40 individuals featured in this year’s Top 40 Under 40 list are exceptional examples of what happens when prospects are nurtured into professionals.
Distribution Center’s Top 40 Under 40 List recognizes the top 40 industry employees younger than 40. The list below is in alpha order by last name.
by Herb Woerpel | Posted June 2018
Mark Bray, 36
Company: ACR Supply Co.
Title: Supply Chain Director
Mark Bray was first introduced to the distribution industry while he was in high school, when he worked at an agricultural supply warehouse as part of a co-op program.
“I became curious about the things that were going on around me in the workplace,” said Bray. “Who was ordering the products that I was unloading off of the delivery trucks? How did they know how much of these products to order? Who was coordinating the delivery trucks?”He sought answers at East Carolina University, where earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial distribution & logistics in 2006 and a master’s degree in technology systems with a concentration in distribution and logistics in 2013.
While only 36, Bray has nine years of experience in warehousing, six years of branch operations/counter sales, four years in procurement/supply chain, and one year in outside sales.
“It is rewarding to know that the products we sell ultimately provide comfort to millions of people in the markets that we serve,” he said. “Our industry makes a difference in people’s quality of living.”
Chad Crowell, 36
Company: Refrigeration Sales Corp.
Title: Sales Manager
Chad Crowell’s entrance into the HVAC industry was a complete accident.
“I was 21, dead broke, and cooking for a paycheck,” he said. “I had just moved from Oregon to Ohio, and my brother, who was the distribution center manager at RSC [Refrigeration Sales Corp.], offered me a part-time job. I was cooking at night and packing, cleaning, and building mobile parts racks for RSC during the day.”
Crowell eventually transferred to RSC’s Cleveland store, where he served as a full-time counter person. Three years later, he obtained a buyer position in purchasing and then became a parts salesperson before ultimately becoming a sales manager.
“Holding all of these different positions at RSC has provided a great education of the wholesale distribution business,” he said. “I was able to get a firsthand look at how the different departments operate and learn the challenges in those departments.”
Sunny Dasgupta, 32
Company: Behler-Young Co.
Title: Digital Marketing Specialist
Sunny Dasgupta believes the HVACR industry is on the precipice of a technological revolution, and he is excited to help lead the charge.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Grand Valley State University with a certification in computer programming, he found a home in the HVAC industry, which he calls a happy happenstance.
“Surprisingly, it took entering the HVACR industry, an industry often perceived as technophobic, for me to learn how to code,” he said. “Behler-Young’s investment in technology is leading the charge for the company’s growth and allowing its employees to grow as well. I'm just one example of that individual growth.”
Customers’ expectations about the service they receive is evolving, and distributors have to adapt to match it and surpass it, Dasgupta said.
“It’s a thrill to work to stay ahead of the curve, anticipate our customers' needs, and develop solutions before our competition,” he said.
Nick DeAngelo, 25
Company: Distributor Corp. of New England
Title: Territory Manager
Nick DeAngelo, 25, is the youngest of this year's Top 40 Under 40 recipients, but you’d never guess that by looking at his résumé.
“I started as a parts specialist," he said. "After three years, I made my way to inside sales. Two years later, I was promoted to inside sales team manager. I then became a territory manager.”
DeAngelo said the key to his success at every stop has been to maintain a good understanding of customer service.
“Whether you’re dealing with a homeowner as a service tech or getting parts in a distribution center, you need to be knowledgeable, pleasant, and, most importantly, have excellent people skills.”
DeAngelo cherishes the opportunity to develop solid and trusting relationships with his customers as well as seeing the results of his hard work when he knows he's helped make a difference.
Michael Denson, 35
Company: Johnstone Supply – Kenilworth
Title: Director of Operations
Michael Denson started turning wrenches at a young age inside the two auto repair shops his family owns. In fact, he never foresaw a future outside of the family business. Until his dad fired him.
“We were working 12-hour days, including Saturdays, all year long,” said Denson. “One night, my dad told me to start looking for a new job. I was pretty upset. I felt I was a fairly decent mechanic. He explained he wanted me to gain experience outside of the shop.”
Denson quickly gained employment with Johnstone Supply.
“Once I realized there was a parts counter at the branch, I immediately felt comfortable,” he said. “Through my years as an auto mechanic, I’d been to my fair share of parts counters.”Denson, who will celebrate 12 years at Johnstone Supply this fall, is a graduate of HARDI’s branch manager certification course and Emerging Leaders program.
Tyler W. Dodson, 29
Company: Shearer Supply
Title: Area Sales Manager for Central Oklahoma
Tyler Dodson’s passion for helping others bodes well for his customers.
“Success is achieved through the success of others,” Dodson said. “I truly enjoy the variety of responsibilities and the fast pace of the industry.”
Always on the move, Dodson relies heavily on cloud computing, which he deems a must-have. “In this day and age, it’s critical to be as efficient as possible with your time,” he said. “Having everything at your fingertips truly helps.”
Dodson aspires to continue climbing HVAC distribution’s ladder.
“I hope to one day become a vice president of sales for our company,” he said. “I aim to continue my own personal growth while expanding market share for Shearer Supply in Oklahoma.”
Dodson’s advice to the next generation: never stop learning.
“We’re fortunate to work in an industry that is continuously evolving,” he said. “Monitor your growth and benchmark against where you want to be.”
Bob Engel III, 27
Company: API of NH Inc.
Title: Territory Manager/E-commerce Director
Bob Engel III is HVAC, born and raised.
At the ripe age of 13, his father hired him into the family business, where he assumed the roles of sweeper, garbage runner, and stocker at the company’s Lowell, Massachusetts, branch.
“Counter sales turned into inside sales and inside sales to territory manager,” Engel said. “Truth be told, I never really envisioned myself doing anything else.”
That all changed in 2013.
“When I graduated from Roger Williams University, I was encouraged to work outside of the company before joining the family business full time,” he said. “I worked for Xerox Corp. for two years. During that time, I was fortunate enough to gain some first-class sales training and obtain some great experience that still helps me today.”
Engel is happy to be back where he belongs at API of NH Inc.
“Currently, I’m a territory manager covering the greater Boston area as well the manager of our e-commerce website,” he said. “On the e-commerce side, I’m learning to understand customers’ pain points when it comes to ordering products and making it easier to find what they need in the shortest amount of time possible.”
Ben Frye, 33
Company: Manufactured Duct and Supply
Title: Sales Director
Ben Frye had his a-ha moment at a recent HARDI focus conference.
“I left HARDI’s marketing and sales optimization course led by Joe Ellers with a whole different view on what sales management should be,” Frye said. “At the beginning of 2017, we implemented an array of procedural changes and incentives, such as metrics to measure growth in success in areas that had not previously been monitored.”
The payoff for Frye has been immense.
“Knowing our materials were used on the region's high-rise condos, hotels, schools, subdivisions, and homes makes me proud,” Frye said.
Age, or lack thereof, has never been an issue for Frye.
“If you work hard, produce results, and care about what you do, your colleagues will respect you,” he said. “It’s like being on a football team. Everybody knows who’s giving their all, every down, because they’re the ones making the plays. Those are the guys everybody respects.”
James Fulton, 39
Company: AC Supply Co.
Title: Sales Manager
James Fulton has 17 years of HVACR experience, making him among the most experienced on this year's Top 40 Under 40 list.
After a few months of pulling orders and delivering equipment, he began ascending the AC Supply ladder. Transitioning from counter sales to outside sales, he ultimately settled into a sales manager position, which he’s held for the last decade.
Fulton aspires to make AC Supply as profitable as possible.
“It is extremely important for all of AC Supply's employees to know that I do everything I can to make this company better for them,” Fulton said. “If our employees go home feeling good about themselves and the company they work for, then I've done my job.”
Fulton serves as a Tarrant County College advisory board chairperson. He’s also certified as an LG Technical Service Advisor and is an LG Technical Service advisory board member.
AJ Garrott, 34
Company: Robertson Heating Supply
Title: Supervisor of Engineering and Technical Services
AJ Garrott began installing furnaces and air conditioners at the age of 16. A year later, he began working with Horger Plumbing and Heating, which was willing to adapt Garrott's hours around his high school football schedule.
Garrott eventually was recruited by Robertson Heating Supply's owner, Scott Robertson, and was subsequently employed as a counterperson in Robertson’s Akron, Ohio, branch.
“Going from physically working on equipment to answering phones, invoicing, and pulling material was tough,” he said.
Eight months later, Garrott was promoted to counter sales at the Canton, Ohio, branch. In 2011, he became Robertson’s Rheem Service Coordinator. He's been recognized with Rheem’s Regional DSC of the Year honors in 2015 and 2017 and Robertson’s Heating Supply Support Person of the Year Award in 2013. In March, he was promoted to supervisor of Robertson’s engineering department.
Brady Grimme, 35
Company: Commercial Specialists Inc.
Title: Sales Manager
From the age of 16, Brady Grimme has been loading and unloading trucks, pulling orders, and helping customers at Commercial Specialists Inc., his family’s business.
Leading up to his graduation from Ohio Northern University, the company was dealt a major blow when a large manufacturer pulled its equipment line.
“During this transitional period, I asked my dad, 'How can I help?'” said Grimme. “Having worked in the warehouse for so many summers, I knew a lot about our parts and supplies, but I didn't know how they made up HVAC systems. With the help of my dad and some of our employees, I got up to speed quickly and started selling to contractors.”
Grimme truly enjoys building relationships with his customers — an action he deems essential to distribution success.
“The most rewarding part about working in this industry is the relationships I've built with customers and employees,” he said. “In HVAC, if you want to be successful, it can’t be just about moving boxes. You must get to know your customers professionally and personally.”
Philip Guy Jr., 34
Company: Yandle Witherspoon
Title: Territory Sales Manager
Coming from a family that boasts three generations of Eagle Scouts and a history in wholesale HVAC, Philip Guy Jr. was destined to become a distribution leader.
While still in high school, Guy started working in Yandle Witherspoon’s Charlotte, North Carolina, branch. After gaining his diploma, he enrolled at North Carolina State University.
When seeking an internship, he was welcomed back to Yandle Witherspoon’s Raleigh, North Carolina, branch. Following college, he remained with the Raleigh branch, where he started as a territory sales manager in 2007. In 2014, he returned to Charlotte to continue the same job in a bigger territory.
“Experience is the greatest teacher of life,” Guy said. “I've learned to better myself through all my experiences and raise my awareness of all aspects that are a part of this job and a part of life.”
Guy cherishes his ability to help others.
“Helping others drives me more than any materialistic thing ever could,” he said. “If you value helping others, any work that you do is purposeful in the growth of yourself.”
Andy Heinze, 34
Company: Crescent Parts and Equipment
Title: Refrigeration Business Unit Manager
While working as Sporlan Valve’s North American distribution business development manager, Andy Heinze worked closely with distributors across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Of all the distributors he worked with, none appealed more to him than Crescent Parts and Equipment.
“The values at Crescent really appealed to me," Heinze said. "I felt right at home in the company culture.”
Heinze often relies on the abundance of data available in HVACR distribution to support his leadership decisions.
“I’m data-driven and like to find the nuggets in a seemingly random set of data,” he said. “Having access to real-time data and current industry events helps ensure that our organization is staying on top of the trends.”
Greg Johnson, 32
Company: NB Handy
Title: Account Manager
After 12 years in the trade – nine as a sheet metal fabrication supervisor – Greg Johnson was excited to land a job with NB Handy.
“I’ve been involved in some terrific projects," Johnson said. "I helped one of NB Handy’s top customers relocate its fabrication shop. From packing up the equipment to setting it up and making sure everything ran properly, I was involved with everything. I've also enjoyed building relationships with customer during trips."
Johnson's industry experience has proven beneficial in his new position with NB Handy.
"The more time I spend with customers, the more ways I find to offer suggestions and help them grow," he said. "This is a very rewarding career."
Johnson was surprised to find that distribution came much easier to him than contracting.“Contractors are struggling to find good, qualified help, and they have to work long hours and weekends,” he said. “Distribution often doesn’t have to worry about those things. We just provide what contractors need, when they need it.”
Stevenson Johnson, 31
Company: Johnstone Supply of Central New York
Title: Sales and Research Associate
After handing out 10 résumés, Stevenson Johnson only received one call back.
“That call came from Johnstone Supply,” Johnson said. “They took a chance on me, and it has been paying off for both sides ever since.”
Johnson is enthusiastic about assisting others.
“It feels good knowing that what we sell/install helps people remain as comfortable and safe as possible,” he said. “It’s hard not to have a passion for this when you know you're making a difference in people’s lives.”
Johnson hopes to one day become a sales manager, like his mentor, Darrell Sterling.
“I aspire to teach sales workshops and be a mentor or advisor to high school/college students looking to get into the trades,” he said. “If I can make it, anyone can. I took a hope and a dream, sprinkled hard work and dedication on it, and made a successful career.”
Dan Keesling, 34
Company: Johnstone Supply – Evansville Group
While Dan Keesling’s family started a HVACR wholesale business in 1993, it was never his intention to work within it.
Fate had a different plan. Fourteen years ago, while working in a different trade, he was suddenly laid off. Seeking part-time work, he returned to the family business. He’s been with the Evansville Group ever since.
After spending a year as a warehouse and delivery driver, he spent five years as a counter salesman, three years as a branch manager, four years as operations manager, and now occupies the role of CEO.
Through it all, the people have remained the company’s greatest asset.
“The parts are all the same; it’s the people who make the difference,” Keesling said. “Failure is acceptable as long as you learn from it. I’ve learned never to be afraid to try something new and to never stop developing yourself and others. Knowledge should be shared not buried.”
David Lohrbach, 35
Company: Rogers Supply Co.
Title: Branch Manager
With a culinary arts pedigree, David Lohrbach never in a million years expected to land in the HVACR industry.
“I was laid off from a restaurant I was working at and got a job at a warehouse pulling orders to make ends meet,” Lohrbach said. “I received a call from my uncle, who had worked in HVAC distribution, who said the company he was working for was expanding and needed an intelligent, aggressive young man to handle running the branch. I was extremely nervous about it, but I applied for the position. Low and behold, I ended up finding a career I never would have pictured myself in.”
Lohrbach spent two years as an Amana account specialist, two years in counter sales, and one year in outside sales before ultimately landing as a branch manager six years ago.
“Being a branch manager has taught me that time is money,” he said. “Owners don’t want guys standing around supply houses for 30 minutes while their orders get pulled, and we understand that and do our best to make sure our customers are making money when they’re in the field.”
Tony Meier, 37
Company: Meier Supply Co. Inc.
Title: Business Development Manager
Tony Meier’s distribution roots run deep. He represents the fourth generation at Meier Supply as his great-grandfather started the company in 1957.
As a kid, Meier would pass the time sweeping the floors and stocking shelves. He formally joined the team in 2004. After a year in the Rochester branch warehouse, Meier moved to the counter, where he spent the next 10 years working in various branches and positions throughout the company. Five years ago, he was promoted to the role of business development manager.
“The role of the distributor in our industry continues to evolve, and our customers rely heavily on us as business partners to provide products, information, technical training, business advice, etc.,” Meier said. “We play an essential role to our customers' success, and that is incredibly rewarding.”
Meier served as the chair of Meier Supply’s inaugural Supply Core Development leadership program, has graduated from HARDI's Emerging Leaders program, is a Dale Carnegie graduate, and was recognized as Meier Supply’s Employee of the Year in 2015.
Alex Mesalam, 29
Company: Best Choice Supply Co.
Title: Territory Manager
At the age of 14, Alex Mesalam spent his summers in his father’s wholesale distributorship. After high school, he gained full-time employment as a warehouse employee before transitioning into the territory manager position he currently holds.
“In the warehouse, I learned the value of getting it correct from the word 'go,'” he said. “I also learned how to interact with customers and what they expect from a supplier. Today, as a territory manager, I’ve learned that people are willing to pay for a service.”
Mesalam identifies the HVAC industry as a diamond in the rough.
“Nobody ever talks about this industry unless they are in it,” he said. “So, from the outside, you don’t really know about HVAC or what it can offer. But, every house and building has heat and air. It is an industry that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The opportunities are endless.”
Kourtney Miller, 36
Company: Century A/C Supply
Title: Sales Manager
Kourtney Miller’s background is as diverse as they come. Her entry to the industry occurred at Jackman Services, where she served in the warehouse as an HVAC division manager for three years. From there, she spent three years with Integrity Air Conditioning, six years with Carrier Enterprises, two years with Insco Distributing, and the last three years, she’s been with Century A/C Supply.
“Understanding the other side of the counter has enabled me to make decisions that are best for all parties,” Miller said. “Having that insight has definitely helped me to better understand what contractors are facing.”
Miller aspires to one day become a general manager at a distributorship.
“I strongly feel that people do business with people, and I know I would not be where I am or become who I’ve become without the people who have crossed my path along the way,” she said. “The bosses, co-workers, employees, customers, and vendors have all played a huge part in my journey.”
Claire Munch, 30
Company: Munch’s Supply
Title: Director of Customer Service
Being born into the Munch family meant Munch’s Supply was a constant fixture in Claire Munch’s life. In fact, the school bus used to drop her off at Munch’s headquarters after school.
As a toddler, she recalls spending countless afternoons in the company’s offices waiting for her dad to finish up for the day.
“Time seems to pass so much slower when you’re only 6 years old,” she said. “Those afternoons in the office are when I met a lot of the customers that we still do business with today.”
Munch admits being young and female in an aging, male-dominated industry can be challenging at times.
“While I feel I've earned the respect of my peers at Munch’s and our customers, it is not always easy to show that to someone when you first meet,” she said. “If you treat others with respect, you are more likely to earn it in return.”
Anthony Pascucci, 36
Company: Johnson Controls Inc.
Title: Regional Director
When Anthony Pascucci started with York, his territory encompassed nine individuals. Today, it has grown to include 90-plus people.
“I’ve learned so much from my team and this side of the business, including how to be a leader and how to trust my team to execute on the strategies we have built,” Pascucci said. “I really enjoy the sales and marketing side of the business. I want to be able to utilize my ideas to help contractors across the country while helping the company I work for be the distributorship of choice for customers.”
Pascucci began his career at Sansone Air Conditioning, where he served as a general manager from 2006 to 2015.
“Coming from the contracting side has allowed me to think a little differently than others working in the traditional HVAC distribution model,” he said. “The culture we’ve been able to build is very dealer-focused, which has allowed us to differentiate from the competition. Understanding what our customers go through on a daily basis and how to help grow their businesses allows us to truly connect as a partner distributor.”
Blake Quinn, 30
Company: AC Pro
Title: Vice President
AC Pro was the first place Blake Quinn visited after he was born. Quinn’s mother, Petra, was the only person who processed payroll 30 years ago at the family business, so the Quinn’s took a quick detour to the AC Pro headquarters on their way home from the hospital.
“My father started the company two years before I was born, so I’ve been around it my whole life,” said Quinn.
Fresh out of college, he officially started with the company in 2009 as a territory manager. In 2011, he became director of marketing. In 2014, the company exapanded its digital offerings and the word “e-commerce” was added to his title. In 2017, he became vice president of e-commerce and marketing, and, one year later, he assumed the role of vice president.
If you really want to succeed, you need to have a passion for what you do, said Quinn.
“If you’re not passionate about this industry, go find one you are passionate about,” he said.
“Passion seems to be the biggest differentiator between those who do well in the industry and those who do not. Sure, you need industry and product knowledge, which typically comes with time, but passion does not tend to be something you learn in one day.”
Steve Raimondi, 32
Company: Munch’s Supply
Title: Sales Manager
When seeking avenues to advance his career, Bob Munch Sr. advised Steve Raimondi to enroll in an HVAC certification program at the local college to gain a better understanding of the industry. After completing the course, Raimondi was promoted to counter sales.
“In that role, I worked with a few dealers after-hours and on weekends to get a better understanding of what their roles were in the field,” Raimondi said. “Unfortunately, I realized that wasn’t the path for me.”
Seeking further guidance, Munch Sr. advised accounting, sales, and management training. “So, I went back to the local college and took courses specific to those topics along with different industry-specific training courses,” he said.
After 14 years with Munch Supply, Raimondi became a sales manager in 2016, which has been a much better fit for his skill set.
“I’m learning and growing in this role every day,” Raimondi said. “While I’m far from perfecting it, I’ve learned that being a great coach is the single most important trait to leading a world-class sales team.”
Tommy Reeves, 39
Company: Lennox Industries
Title: Regional Director
Reeves found employment with an electrical supply company right out of college. While working the counter, he received some sage advice from a customer.
“I remember him saying, ‘Tommy, you seem like a smart kid. If I could give you any advice, it’d be to get into HVAC,” Reeves said. “There are greater opportunities in HVAC.’ Of course, I had no idea even what HVAC meant, but his words stuck with me. Five years later, when I was looking to make a career move, I applied at Lennox. I've been here ever since.”
Reeves now encourages his peers in the industry to remember that internal customers are just as important as external ones.
“Treat your fellow employees the same as you would your largest account,” he said. “Be of service from the moment you wake up, and your team will be of service for you and your customers. A great internal culture equals a world-class customer experience.”
Sean Reihm, 31
Company: Weinstein Supply
Title: Inside Sales/CSR
Sean Reihm has only been in the industry for one year, but in that short time, he has a newfound respect for the intricacies of the trade.
“I’ve had to cultivate my attention to detail in regards to what my customers are trying to achieve with the systems they’re installing,” Reihm said. “I came in with little to no knowledge about this trade. The people in this industry have been extremely willing to help educate me along this process. I've learned a large amount in a short time due to the help of others in this field.”
Reihm enjoys helping customers get what they need to complete a job without any issues.
“There is so much to know and learn in this field that every day you can gain another piece of valuable information,” he said. “There is a lot of problem-solving that goes into what we do, and if I can make a job or task easier for my customer, I’m happy at the end of the day.”
Lauren Roberts, 33
Company: cfm Distributors
Title: President and CEO
While attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2004, Lauren Roberts received a call from her dad, who was cfm’s President at the time, telling her that cfm Distributors’ controller asked if she was interested in joining the company and possibly taking over the position in a few years when he was going to retire.
Intrigued by the opportunity, she hired in as an accounting assistant. Her career at cfm Distributors — the business her grandfather co-founded in 1969 — progressed across multiple positions, including marketing assistant, marketing manager, director of marketing, vice president of marketing and customer experience, and executive vice president. Today, she serves as cfm’s president and CEO.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years is how to deal with all different types of people from different backgrounds and generations and how to adapt my management style to fit their needs,” Roberts said. “One management style doesn’t work across all people, so I've learned to adapt and be able to help people who need more coaching and feedback along the way.”
Kevin Ronningen, 39
Company: S.G. Torrice Co.
Title: Field Sales Manager
When S.G. Torrice Co. took on the Trane line, the company knew it was going to need some additional help.
Kevin Ronningen was part of that solution.
Ronningen admits his background doesn’t match the résumé of a traditional HVACR distribution sales manager.
“My college degree is in communications, and my background consisted of 10 years in the TV news business followed by 10 years in marketing, planning, and strategy for a health care company,” he said. “Luckily, Matt Bedard, company CEO, saw the potential that my skill set could bring to this role and took a chance on me.”
In addition to his sales manager role, Ronningen is also project manager for the company’s transition from the Supply House Information Management System (SHIMS) to Eclipse. Better use of technology is moving this company, and the industry, forward, he said.
“There is a huge opportunity in this industry to leverage e-commerce,” Ronningen said. “I’m part of a team that created an easy-to-use platform for our dealers, and we are already seeing that pay off.”
Amber Sheehan-Jelinek, 34
Company: Johnstone Supply – Sheehan Group
Title: COO and Co-owner
The summer of 1997 was a busy one for Amber Sheehan-Jelinek and her family. Her dad was opening up the family’s first Johnstone Supply location in Detroit, and it was all hands on deck.“We worked long hours prepping the building, setting up the shelving, checking in product, and even hanging the outdoor signs,” Sheehan-Jelinek said. “One of my favorite memories from that summer is when my sister and I, at 12 and 13, helped our dad hang our original sign outside the building.”
From warehouse to warranty to branch manager, there aren’t many positions Sheehan-Jelinek hasn’t held at the company. Today, she operates as the company’s COO.
“At each point along the way I learned how to execute, contribute, improve, and relate to each role,” she said. “Being brought up the ranks this way has helped me have empathy, insight, and leadership in ways I simply wouldn’t have had I not been.”
Sheehan-Jelinek is determined to make a difference in the industry and beyond.
“Helping people with their careers is a way to help them change their lives,” she said. “There is nothing more rewarding than making a lasting, positive impact in someone’s life, and I have hopes to do so for as many people as possible.”
John Steele, 35
Company: CFM Equipment Distributors Inc.
Title: Sales and Marketing Manager
After years of having to do everything from quote to delivery for his customers, John Steele earned the nickname “The Man of Steel." However, a medical emergency caused him to hit the brakes.
“I spent years stressing out every time the company I represented couldn’t support my dealers' business,” Steele said. “Because of that, I had a mild heart attack at the age of 27.
Since then, I’ve made the choice to join a company with a team focus, and the greatest part is that by not carrying all the stress, I’ve been more productive and happier than ever.”
Steele’s six-year tenure as territory manager has seen him increase sales from $300,000 to more that $10 million. He’s also been named Territory Manager of the Year four times. Today, he operates as CFM’s sales and marketing manager.
“I aspire to be a part of the most successful team in the HVAC industry,” he said. “My job is to be a force multiplier so that each team member learns how they can provide industry-dominating value for our dealers.”
Scott Terfehr, 36
Company: Gustave A. Larson Co.
Title: Counter Sales Representative
Following high school, Scott Terfehr pursued a career in HVAC by attending courses at Minnesota State Community and Technical College (MSCTC). After graduating, he was drawn to HVACR distribution.
“One of my teachers suggested I look into a career with Gustave A. Larson Co.,” said Terfehr. “Luckily, they were hiring when I was looking, so it worked out very well for me.”
Over his 13-year career with Gustave A. Larson, Terfehr has remained at the counter, right where he feels most comfortable.
“I really enjoy the customer service aspect of the job,” he said. “I’ve learned a great deal about all the different products we sell and have gained a great deal of knowledge through manufacturer training.”
Over the last 13 years, Terfehr has grown very close to his coworkers and customers.
“We work together so frequently that we understand each other’s goals very well,” he said. “You create lasting relationships, and it’s great to be able to do your part in these partnerships because we all need each other to accomplish our goals.”
Laura Tofte, 39
Company: Auer Steel & Heating Supply Co.
Title: Director of Marketing
As an outside saleswoman for Controls Products Inc., Laura Tofte’s job required her to travel around the nation and present the company’s Freeze Alarm and other products to distributors.
One of those stops included a visit to Auer Steel in Milwaukee. Tofte ran into the Auer Steel team again at the 2004 HARDI Annual Conference in San Francisco. A few days later, Tofte received a call from the general manager at Auer Steel, who invited her out for a coffee to discuss a marketing opportunity within the business. She was hired shortly thereafter.
After four years as marketing manager of parts and supplies, she was promoted to sales manager of the Twin Cities territory, where she worked for six years. Today, she operates as Auer Steel’s director of marketing.
To Tofte, HVACR distribution is all about customer service.
“Do what you are going to do when you say you are going to do it, and you will succeed because the vast majority of the people you are competing with will not,” she said. “Learn your products, know them inside out and backwards, become passionate about what those products do and how they will help to solve problems, and, again, the sales will come.”
Kevin Trimbach, 34
Company: 2-J Supply
As a third-generation employee, Kevin Trimbach has been around the HVACR industry his entire life.
“I have fond memories of playing in warehouses, offices, and showrooms with my siblings,” Trimbach said.
Trimbach officially started his career with 2-J Supply while he was in high school, when he was responsible for sweeping, taking out the trash, and other random maintenance jobs.
He finds great value in helping his customers and helping the industry's next generation grow and prosper.
“This new wave of workers is enthusiastic because we are the industry, and we have the opportunity to make an impact in a positive way in so many people’s lives,” Trimbach said. Trimbach commonly falls back on advice he received from his grandpa: Treat everyone with respect, build relationships that will be mutually beneficial, and be a servant leader.
“Be passionate, expect excellence, and work as though someone is always watching,” he said.
Jessica VanHuss, 30
Company: Century A/C Supply
Title: Purchasing and Inventory Manger
More than 10 years ago, Jessica VanHuss was encouraged to apply for a purchasing assistant opening at Century A/C. A decade later, she’s still with the company and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.
“Century is an amazing company,” VanHuss said. “The leaders at Century have allowed me to grow personally and professionally.”
VanHuss has been a rising star at Century A/C for several years. At the age of 25, she was promoted to purchasing manager. Two years later, she moved into an inventory manager role.
Today, she manages purchasing for two companies — Century A/C Supply and its sister company, Air Management Supply.
“I'm constantly learning and enjoy traveling to our branches and love helping in the warehouse or training branch personnel on our operating system,” she said.
Brad Vermillion, 39
Company: G.W. Berkheimer
Title: Illinois Equipment Manager
While employed at a manufacturer’s rep., Brad Vermillion grew tired of that company’s inability to secure a product line, so he reached out to his friend Justin Bjankini.
“I asked him, ‘Hey, you always brag about your company. Can you get me an interview?’” said Vermillion.
Vermillion started as an inside sales representative at G.W. Berkheimer's Aurora branch in 2005. He was then transferred to the Rockford branch in 2006, where he eventually assumed the role of outside salesman. In 2008, he was promoted to the role of equipment specialist, and, in 2017, he became the equipment manager for all 11 Illinois branches.
“As equipment specialist, I'm asked to teach companies the business side of the industry,” he said. “I've really spread my wings in this role. However, I didn’t do it all on my own. I had amazing guidance from my G.W. Berkheimer family. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
Vermillion signs his emails with the phrase, “Go the extra mile, it’s never crowded.”
“I truly believe this,” he said. “There are so many ways to learn and grow in this industry. Take advantage of the training that is available, learn it, and put it to good use.”
Lee Washington, 27
Title: Operations Manager
His freshman year of college, Lee Washington gained summer employment as a forklift driver with Packard. After a quick venture with John Deere, Washington was elated to hear Packard was looking for an operations manager, and he jumped at the opportunity.
“As operations manager, I have learned to include the people impacted by a decision to be a part of the decision-making process in order to receive the best buy-in,” Washington said. “It’s incredibly powerful to give people ownership over decisions that affect their daily work routines.”
Washington is driven to make a difference in people's lives.
“Wherever I'm at, I want to make a difference. I do not want to be a passive observer in the workplace but an active participant. I want to drive the company forward and foster a place where people want to come to work.”
Andy Wisnosky, 35
Company: Allied Refrigeration
Title: Counter Sales
Fifteen years ago, an old neighbor was seeking a driver for the HVACR distribution branch he was managing, and Andy Wisnosky was eager to jump behind the wheel.
From driver to salesman, Wisnosky has put together quite a career at Allied Refrigeration.
"Early in my career, when I would answer the phone, people would sometimes say, ‘You can’t help me, can you connect me with someone else?’" Wisnosky said. "I’d always listen and try to figure out what I was doing wrong and learn what I could. Eventually, I earned my customers’ trust by learning how to deliver what they need.”
Above all else, Wisnosky always tries to remain positive.
“There is nothing worse than having negative energy that brings everyone down around you," he said.
Alex Witcpalek, 27
Title: Director of Sales, North America
When Alex Witcpalek joined Sales-i, he identified building materials as an industry vertical that would benefit from the company’s product, which turned out to be a lucrative decision.
“This vertical was primarily comprised of the sub-segments lumber, roofing, gypsum, hardware, HVAC, and plumbing,” he said. “Fast forward four years, and we now have more than 100 customers in this vertical.”
Witcpalek has also enjoyed great success on the football field. As a walk-on at the University of Louisville, he helped the Cardinals defeat the University of Florida to win the Sugar Bowl in 2013.
“I’m passionate about what I do and the people that I get to do it with,” he said. “When I see others get as excited about what we do as I am, that feeds the fire.”
Robert Wright, 36
Company: Behler-Young Co.
Title: Senior Application Developer and Analyst
While Robert Wright was unaware that Behler-Young's headquarters was located three miles away from his newly purchased home, the coincidence proved career-changing.
“Behler-Young has a great impact on our community,” he said. “When I saw they were looking to add someone to their information technology team, I had to apply.”
While he’s only been involved in the industry for less than four years, he’s learned quite a bit in a short amount of time.
“While working with Behler-Young, I’ve gained perspective on the complexity of distribution, faced challenges automating and standardizing operational processes, and learned a lot about our customers and what it takes to run a successful HVAC business,” he said. “All have been challenging, yet rewarding.”
Wright is issuing an open challenge to all of HVACR distribution.
“Distribution has been getting a reputation for being behind the times,” he said. “I challenge everyone to learn as much as they can about all aspects of our industry. Ask why, and then ask it again. It’s very easy to get caught up in repetition of daily work. When it comes to our businesses and processes, we must find time to analyze and innovate. Work on the business, not just in the business.”
Andre Zdanow, 36
Title: Vice President of E-commerce
Andre Zdanow is a true entrepreneur.
Shortly after finishing high school at Millersburg Military Academy, he created his own start-up titled, “I Love Bagels.” While the venture was short lived, it provided Zdanow a sip of business success that left him thirsty for more.
While earning a bachelor’s degree in international business from LIU Post, he invested his time in becoming an investor. From 2005 to 2014, he held investor positions with multiple companies, including Quirky, StadiumRed, Zech Capital, and others.
In December 2014, Zdanow found himself in unfamiliar territory – the HVAC industry, as he became the first Director of Watsco Ventures.
While Zdanow was new to the industry, his creativity, knowledge of the IoT space, and finance background were well-received.
“I was responsible for sourcing and evaluating Watsco’s hardware and IoT investments, strategic partnerships, and distribution opportunities,” Zdanow said. “I also helped establish Watsco Venture’s Software Factory, which quickly grew from one developer to over 10.”
Less than a year and a half later, Zdanow was promoted to senior director of business development at Gemaire Distributors, leading product management, marketing, web development, and customer service. One year later, Zdanow assumed the role of vice president of e-commerce with Gemaire. In that role, he helped Watsco win the 2018 Magento B2B Growth Award.